AWOL Around Australia… Heading East

More dirt road wandering the next day.
I had been eyeing up a place called ‘Adels Grove’ on the map. Visualising a rough and ready outback stopover. What it turned out to be was another slick ‘resort camp’. This one full of self important whinging baby boomers, who don’t understand the concept of queuing…“Shocking dirt road in, it took us three hours to drive sixty kilometres…”
(this isn’t a general comment on baby boomers, this place just seemed to attract a certain type)/rant.
We just stayed the one night and bailed the next day.
Old man Rollo caught up on his snoozing.
Lawn Hill Gorge. This is why the oldies come I presume. You can hire a kayak or take a cruise.
After taking the ‘shocking’ (normal) dirt road out for a while, we peeled off onto the route less travelled.
Eventually back on the bitumen, we headed east to the town of Normanton.
Not before stopping at the site of Camp 119.
The last camp on the famous and ill-fated Burke and Wills Expedition.
We stopped in Normanton for a couple of nights. There had been a lot of moving recently, not to mention this was our first place with proper internet since Darwin. So it was good to get some of this journal you’re reading done (I try not to get too far behind, you lose motivation if it’s too long ago when, you’re writing about I find), catch up with mates, etc.
$20/night, nice lady. That’s just my note about where we stayed. She didn’t charge us much because we were in a tent, and ‘don’t use power and water like the caravaners do’. I’m not complaining.
This is supposedly a replica of the largest croc ever shot up here (back when they were hunted). Over eight metres.
We were heading to Cairns. The main city in Far North Queensland. We could either go the bitumen main road, or the longer dirt road. We went dirt (obviously).

Again we had hoped for a bushcamping spot along this route. The only ‘official’ one was at the base of a riverbank, literally a few metres between that and the large river, in prime croc territory, that alone wouldn’t have bothered me too much but it just wasn’t a great camp. We pushed on, but the signage left you in no doubt that pulling up just off the road and pretending ignorance to the rules wasn’t going to wash. So again we ended up pushing on to the next small town, Chillagoe.

An RBT (Random Breath Test) on the way into town, I had a good chat with the copper, about having chats with coppers at these things. We both agreed you have to ‘pick you targets’ these days if you don’t want a bit of light hearted banter to turn sour. Shame, but that’s the world folks. He was only in town because the rodeo was on. I thought the next morning I would have actually liked to have gone to a country rodeo, never have done, but was so bushed after a big drive and pushing on to get off the cattle strewn (we estimate we saw over a million dollars worth of cattle that day alone) dirt road before dark, I didn’t even think about it.

We had booked an Airbnb in Cairns, after living out of a tent for three months straight it seemed like a good opportunity to spend a few nights in an actual bricks and mortar dwelling before heading back into the outback.
(Well we didn’t quite nail the booking as planned… as we booked it a day later than intended, and then when we thought we were staying for three nights, at about midday after the second night the host politely enquired as our plans for that day, which was a nice way of saying when are you guys leaving as I have other guests coming… Ah well, shit happens)
So we needed another nights camp before hitting Cairns.
So a short but extremely picturesque drive the next morning to the small town of Dimbulah. From here we were planning to head out to an old historic mine that has been turned into a bush camp. We had service so I called ahead to see if they were open. Which us just as well, as they were not permitted for anyone to camp there now. Too much to fix up after the wet season apparently- Queensland has copped all manor of extreme weather this year, with the flooding being the worst – although those events would indirectly shape the next part of our trip…
So we just stayed in Dimbulah. I was over trying to find bush camps and everything around here seems to be in a National Park, so no good with the dogs. Anyway, Dimbulah turned out to be a charm of a place (plus the apple sour cream cake from the cafe was probably the best cake I have had in a long time, and a bit like art, I’m not really a cake guy…).
Had a good chat with Dean. A retired ambulance officer, originally from South Australia. He was full of good conversation. They were getting ready for the big weekend next weekend when the annual wheelbarrow race would come through the town. Exciting stuff.
I cooked one of my favourite camp foods that night. After picking up some skirt steak from the butcher in Warburton. Had to cook some beef at some point after seeing all those cattle.
Carne Asada! (hat-tip to my pal Tim from Dirt Sunrise, who seemed to exist off this dish when he went camping, and got me started on it). I changed it up from the normal soft tortilla style, to chilli cheese beans, salad and Mission’s wicked chilli and lime tortilla chips.
A dry rub instead of a marinade this time. Use what you’ve got!
Such a change in scenery in this part of the world. As you get near the east coast the green rocky hills slowly become lush rainforest and sugarcane farms.
So, we finally roll into Cairns. Which feels very clean and shiny, especially compared to us.
Our Cruiser sporting the ‘been places, seen stuff, shit happened’ look (high in the back, as I’d been running down he fuel and water as we got closer to the big smoke).
I treat Bertha to the first car wash we’ve seen since Darwin. We eat Chinese dumplings. N stocks up on yarn. I get stuff to service the car. Big city life.
I had hoped to get the car service done at the Airbnb, but it just wasn’t that sort of place. Also once we got ‘evicted’ (joke, it was totally our mistake) we bailed to a caravan park, what could go wrong?
Well the remnants of the cyclone that had been hanging around hit that night in the form of rain, lots of rain.
Met Michael, with two mini Yorkshire Terriers. Who had been living with dementia the last ten years or so. Travelling for the last three. Woke up one day couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk. Probably caused by childhood trauma apparently.
He was pretty jovial about it considering…
Lake Placid (Australia).
One of the reasons I wanted to stay another day in civilisation, was I wanted to do some trip planning for the next stage. Lake Eyre, was filling up. It seems South Australia was calling us back…
Cape York? Not this time. I feel that’s more of a trip in itself. Plus our tyres are well past their best, we were managing a few issues on the Cruiser, and more importantly we weren’t really feeling it at this stage.
Slightly wet pack-down, but not too bad. I guess that’s one of the big differences camping in Oz vs UK. In Australia you are almost guaranteed that tent will be dry a few hours after setting it up that afternoon.
That day we headed south-west. A misty mountains drive through the central highlands, not an area that gets much publicity. Fine with us.
First free camp in quite sometime. Hopefully it would be mostly back roads and bushcamps between here and Lake Eyre.
I got most of the service done on Bertha that afternoon, with the parts I had bought in Cairns. That should be the last one between here and home.

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